Name: Ashley Heinen
Cozy neutrals and eloquent, simple designs make up the knitted love that Ashley Heinen of @toastytribehandmade embodies. Knitting, "the gift that keeps on giving", has brought her joy since 2016, and will continue to do so long into the future.
Ashley has written a cozy cowl pattern exclusively for Darn Good Yarn. Get your Simple Style Cowl kit here, and continue on the meet the artist behind this comfy cowl.
1. When did you start knitting? How did you learn?
I started knitting in 2016. I really owe it all to my husband. At the time he was enlisted in the Marine Corps and we were living in California away from our friends and family. I was pregnant with our first child, and already on somewhat of a budget we had to get creative with our date nights. It was a Saturday night sometime around 8pm and my husband suggested we run to Walmart to buy some needles and yarn and teach ourselves how to knit. At the time learning to knit wasn’t really on my radar but it sounded like fun! After we got home we watched a few “beginner knitting” videos on YouTube and I was hooked!! My husband gave up after about 10 minutes, but I haven’t put my needles down since. What I love about knitting is it doesn’t take any fancy tools or expensive classes. I learned from YouTube with yarn and needles from Walmart. If I can do it, so can you!!!
2. Whats your favorite memory involving knitting?
I feel that for me I’m always excited about the future or the next project, so every new project or pattern becomes my new favorite thing. But in 2017 we moved back to Wisconsin where I grew up and I had the chance to teach my childhood friend how to knit. Let me just say, learning yourself and then teaching someone else how to knit are not synonymous. It took a little while to figure out how to explain everything but eventually she got it! It was so much fun to be able to sit down and talk yarn with one of my best friends. Since then we’ve gone on yarn runs together and knit over coffee plenty of times. This year she even taught her own mother how to knit!! Her mom ended up making all her friends scarves for Christmas. Knitting is the gift that just keeps on giving!
3. What Inspired you to create your own small business?
I’d like to think that Entrepreneurship runs in my blood. When I was growing up my mom ran her own certified daycare out of our home. When I was in Highschool my dad had lost his job, which set him on a course to start his own plumbing company. He’s been in business for over 6 years now and is wildly successful. Not to mention that my mom now works as his full-time office/ business manager. Today they have not only one but two companies of their own.
After finding my passion for knitting I knew I wanted to turn it into something more than just a hobby. I loved creating and I wanted to share my creations with people outside my small circle of friends and family. Growing up I never thought I would have the skills to start my own company but now I can’t imagine doing anything else. If there is one thing I’ve learned from my parents it’s that owning your own business is never easy, but hard work pays off and at the end of the day there is nothing more rewarding.
4. What has been the biggest challenge so far that you have faced in your fiber arts career?
Fighting all the negative thoughts can be exhausting. At times you find yourself in a creative rut and you just don’t feel inspired. This happened about a year after I first opened my shop. I started off by selling different made-to-order items. People would put in orders and I would make whatever they wanted in a different array of color combinations. Eventually it just wore me out. I was uninspired because I wasn’t making things that I was personally excited about. I had the idea to maybe change up my shop and go in the direction of children’s clothing and accessories but even the new direction wasn’t keeping me inspired. So when I found out I was pregnant with my second little boy I took a break. For a few months I was completely removed from my business and continued knitting but just for fun. That’s when all the inspiration struck. I started to enjoy creating things for myself that I loved to wear and show off. This was when I started designing and writing my own patterns. Through my most difficult season with Toasty Tribe I discovered the direction I really wanted to go with my business and I’m so thankful I never gave up on myself.
5. What tips do you have for other crafters who are looking to take their craft to the next level?
Whatever your craft or skill, don’t underestimate yourself. Everyone starts somewhere. Comparison is a thief of joy so don’t let what others are doing discourage you from your own path. One thing I’m so thankful for is the people I’ve met in this maker community. More often than not, people are so willing to help by offering up advice and tips to people just starting on their own journey. If you have a question, ASK! Just because you don’t know something right now, doesn’t mean you can’t learn! If you’re hoping to turn your hobby into a career than you need to start acting like a business owner. This doesn’t happen overnight, but if you don’t take yourself seriously then no one else will. There are so many tools and resources out there to help you. Get organized, figure out your target market, contact your suppliers, buy business cards, do whatever it is you need to do. You may not be selling your products right now, but you’ll want to be ready when you do!
6. What’s next for you?
Ahh, big things I hope!! 2018 feels like a year of new beginnings for me. I’m so excited to do some more collaborating this year and dive into new projects. My list of inspirations is so long I’m not even sure I know where to start. I know that I’ll be working diligently to improve my pattern writing skills and I’ll also be doing lots of research to learn new skills that will hopefully aid me in designing and writing up patterns for my first garments. Possibly a new blog this year!! Not quite sure yet but whatever I do, it’s gonna be wonderful, full of yarn, and fueled by lots and lots of coffee.